More than 30 years ago, the Brigada Callejera de Apoyo a la Mujer “Elisa Martínez” organization (“Elisa Martínez” Women’s Support Street Brigade) was formed in the heart of Mexico City. Their work focuses primarily on contributing to sex workers’ autonomous organization and abolishing the structural problems that lead to the exploitation of sexual labor. They also work on strengthening working class identity and in doing so fight for respect and rights.
We know that in Mexico it’s all too easy for anyone, especially cis and trans women, to be sexually exploited. To prevent and attack this exploitation, Brigada Callejera has put effort into areas like education, health, and labor rights, among others. These have been amplified and shared on a national level thanks to the Red Nacional de Trabajo Sexual (National Sex Work Network).
Here are a few examples of achievements, goals, and work that the organization has advanced over the years:
1. Creating a space of safety and accompaniment for and with sex workers, where in addition to a safe space for community and political organization, they offer educational, gynecological, psychological, acupuncture, dental, and informational services.
2. Legal and labor recognition as non-salaried workers in Mexico City, through order 112/2013.
3. Campaigns to reduce transmission of STDs such as HIV and syphilis.
4. Distribution and sale of the “Encanto” condom, which works towards two main goals: protection, as a low-cost or free health supply for sex workers; and generating a small income for the organization.
5. Training for sexual health promoters.
6. Encouraging the creation of sex work cooperatives.
7. Training sex workers as community journalists.
8. Mass information campaigns on health, education, and autonomy.
9. Organizing annual national convergences to expose the problems in each state and facilitate organization.
10. Convoking and marching as an autonomous contingent on May Day with a clear working class identity.
11. Currently, with COVID-19, carrying out health and food campaigns, since the Mexico City government promised aid and up to this point hasn’t managed to cover even 20% of what it agreed to.
12. Making plans of study for workers who want to continue their studies.
13. Supportive accompaniment to organizations of mothers of disappeared people from Central America who are looking for their children on Mexico’s southern border.
14. Halting exploitation and human trafficking, informing and accompanying survivors in the legal and social realms, and helping with denunciations.
15. Supportive accompaniment to people, collectives, and social organizations around sexual precautions.
Supporting these initiatives is vitally important. The whole world is going through an economic crisis, but it is clear that some groups are more affected than others. In this case, many workers lost their homes after the city government ordered the closure of hotels, which puts them in an extremely vulnerable situation: for one, they can no longer generate income for themselves and their families, and furthermore, they are pushed to live on the streets faced with the COVID pandemic.